Stories tagged cosmetics


Summer is here, and many of us in the upper Midwest utilize this crazy thing called warmth to gleefully attempt squeezing as much natural Vitamin D out of the sunlight as we can muster. And to ensure we can do this day after day after day without wholly inconvenient trips to the ER with third-degree sunburns, we lather on the The Sun: Hhhhhhooooottttttttt.
The Sun: Hhhhhhooooottttttttt.Courtesy NASA
sunscreen. By the way, have you ever done a Google image search for third-degree sunburns? Not recommended if you’re eating or have just eaten. It’s nasty. Unless, of course, you’re trying to prove a point to someone about why sunscreen and the reapplication thereof are important, then by all means search away.

Anyway – it’s not often that we think about what’s in our sunscreen. First and foremost, sunscreens are categorized in two different ways – chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreens have special, you got it, chemicals that penetrate the skin and absorb the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. Physical sunscreens (often referred to as sunblocks) use titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to sit atop the skin and flat-out block those rays from ever touching you. They usually went on in some bright color and stayed that way, impossible to rub in clear. Remember back in the day when lifeguards used to have bright-white (or neon pink, green, blue, or yellow) noses? Yep, sunblock.

Enter nano.

Now you can find sunBLOCK in your grocery store/pharmacy/chemist/convenience store that excitedly claims on its packaging that it rubs in clear. And for that, you can thank nanoscale science. You see, scientists have figured out how to put tiny little nano-particles of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide into a solution – taking advantage of the concept of surface area – in a way that has the same sun-blocking properties without the embarrassing shock-white coverage. Way cool, right?


Ummm…maybe not? Here’s a charming and edifying video by the people who brought you The Story of Stuff, called The Story of Cosmetics. In it, they put a big huge lens up to the cosmetics industry, specifically the lack of labeling laws and regulations. Because right now, who KNOWS what we’re putting on our skin, and what affect it will have, because most of it is not even tested. The Story of Cosmetics says, “Less than 20% of chemicals in cosmetics have been assessed for safety by the industry’s safety panel, so we just don’t know what they do to us when we use them. Would you fly on an airline that only inspects 20% of its planes?” Nope. Can’t say that I would.

This concern about safety applies to products using nanoparticles, too. We just don’t know yet what is safe and what isn’t, and nanoparticles can pose new, significant risks. They talk a little about it here. And Andrew Maynard over at 2020 Science talks about it here .

Kind of overwhelming, right? So what can you do?

*You can do as much research as you can before you buy – a personal favorite is EWG’s Skin Deep database.
*You can call or e-mail or contact via post the companies who use toxic chemicals in their products, and tell them they’ve lost a customer until they cut it out.
*You can contact your legislators, and tell them that it’s important.

Until then – well – look at that nice shady spot under that tree over there…


Sudsy: Sure, you think that shampoo in your hair every day is helpful. But is it really? Dermatologists say that daily shampooing can be counter productive.
Sudsy: Sure, you think that shampoo in your hair every day is helpful. But is it really? Dermatologists say that daily shampooing can be counter productive.Courtesy cybertoad
Wash, rinse, repeat.

It’s the standard verbage that you find on every shampoo bottle. Comedians have a great time making jokes about it. But people who study hair closely are wondering if we’re actually washing our hair too much these days.

Here’s the complete NPR report on the matter.

There are plenty of people in the U.S. who wouldn’t think of going a day with out washing their hair. Americans, on average, wash their hair 4.59 times per week. Those who live in Italy and France scrub their locks about half that rate.

So what’s the right amount of washing for a person’s hair?

Back in the early 1900s, the rule of thumb among Americans was once a month. The short answer for this day and age is: it depends. But dermatologists note that less you wash your hair, the less our sebaceous glands create sebum oil, one of the oils we’re continually trying to wash out of our hair. As a general rule, the dermatologists in the report suggest shampooing your hair no more than two or three times a week.

The type and length of a person’s hair can matter in the frequency of shampooing, too. Those with long, straight hair will generally need to shampoo more often than those with shorter, curlier hair.

Of course, marketers and advertising wizards want to create an impression in our mind that we need to use shampoos more often. After all, they’ll make more money with the more shampoo we use.

The green movement is picking up on this idea, too. Here's a link to a blog by a woman who avoids shampoo – and many other products – for environmental reasons.

Are you foaming to weigh in with your opinions about shampoo? Share them here with other Buzz readers.


A ragtag band of scientists marches into the future: right past the LHC department, to the venom cream section.
A ragtag band of scientists marches into the future: right past the LHC department, to the venom cream section.Courtesy StevenM_61
This truly is a season to remember. Scientific endeavors are being undertaken that will live on for a hundred generations in human memory.

Snake venom facial cream, for instance, is now for sale in London department stores.

If you were concerned that your face wasn’t feeling quite envenomated enough (and why would I even write “if”?), give your hideous frown lines and forehead creases a much needed rest. Science has synthesized the venom of the Asian temple viper, and put it into cream form. And, Science’s work done, Gwyneth Paltrow reportedly stands by the product.

According to the manufacturers, the product gives temporary, Botox-like results by “stunning” the skin in a way “similar to a snake bite.” Hmm. Interesting. Let’s look beyond my initial reaction to the prospect of getting bit in the face by a snake (which is, to be clear, a resounding “Yes!”)

The temple viper is named so for its high population in the Temple of the Azure cloud in Malaysia. It is a species of pit viper, and so a cousin to American rattlesnakes. The venom of the temple viper is a hemotoxin, and affects blood and muscle tissue (as opposed to the faster acting neurotoxins present in some snake venom, which affect the nervous tissue). Hemotoxins contain enzymes that destroy red blood cells, and cause general havoc in nearby organ and tissues. Prey killed with hemotoxic venom is easier for snakes to digest, because it tends to break down the tissue in the region of the bite. This means that, even if a victim is not killed by a bite, it is possible to lose entire limbs to necrosis from hemotoxins.

But I hear that it is positively delightful when applied to the face. Pots of snake science are now available for $105 at Selfridges department store in London.

Oh, also, the Large Hadron Collider was turned on today. Apparently that’s sort of a big deal in science too. But it doesn’t do anything for crow’s feet.

Do you really know what's in that lipstick you're about to touch to your lips? Read this New York Times story to find out how whale puke and ground up beetles are among the key ingredients to today's cosmetics.